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HOW TO STOP POACHING? IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE

Reading the fund raising appeals of the top conservation organizations, you’d think that they had never cracked the problem of poaching. But both academic studies and painful experience pinpoint the solutions: Hire experienced park rangers, lots of them. Give them the training and resources (vehicles, weapons, radios, funding for undercover work and tips) to do their jobs. Build morale with good salaries and rewards based on performance. Combine law enforcement efforts with community conservation, offering local people economic incentives and education. Crack down on trade networks and end users. Yet again and again, conservation groups fail to follow through, governments turn a blind eye to corruption, and poaching brings critical species, like today’s Endangered All-Star, the Greater One-Horned Rhino, to the brink. Confined to tiny pockets of its former range, coveted for its horn—thought to heal everything from inflammation to cancer—this rhino finds safe haven nowhere, not even in national parks like Kaziranga, in India’s Brahmaputra Valley, or in Chitwan and Bardia National Parks in Nepal. Kudos to grassroots groups like the International Trust for Nature Conservation in Nepal, the Fund for the Tiger, and the Wildlife Protection Society of India for relentlessly pursuing poachers and the systems that protect them. Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne have been examining causes and solutions for years in papers like “Rhino Poaching in Assam: Challenges and Opportunities” (Pachyderm no. 46 July-December 2009). Interviewing poachers and park rangers, investigating the trade at all levels, they provide practical recommendations on how to tackle the problem. As the insurgency gains power in India, leading to greater instability around one of the Indian rhino’s last strongholds, we hope government officials and NGOs will take notice.
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